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Robert Lipka, An American Spy

Robert Lipka, An American Spy

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Lipka’s basic training photo. A Soviet KGB badge.
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Minox spy camera and a “dead drop” site and map.

When Robert Lipka was a 19-year-old soldier in the U.S. Army assigned to the National Security Agency (NSA) at Ft. Meade, Maryland, he made a decision—a decision to betray his country for cash. From 1964 to 1967, he was assigned to the Collections Bureau, later renamed the Priority Materials Branch. His principal assignment was to remove classified NSA national defense documents from teleprinters and deliver them to the appropriate departments. However, Lipka often hid these classified documents on his person to escape detection from NSA security and used a common espionage technique known as a “dead drop” to transfer these documents to the KGB and then retrieve payment at a prearranged site. Lipka, whose KGB code name was “Rook”, also possessed spy cameras to clandestinely photograph sensitive documents.

In August 1967, Lipka resigned from the Army and moved to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where he attended college at a local university. When he left, he took more classified NSA documents with him.

An independent investigation regarding two individuals, Peter and Ingeborg Fischer, indicated that they were most likely German/Russian operatives acting at the behest of the KGB.The investigation further revealed that the Fischers had made contact with Lipka in 1968. When the agents discovered that Lipka used to work at NSA, they suspected he had been the spy utilizing the code name “Rook.”

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Peter and Ingeborg Fischer. Mug shot of Robert Lipka.

In 1993, based on the information developed from the Fischer investigation and a book written by a former KGB Major General which contained a detailed description of espionage committed by a young soldier at NSA in the mid-1960s, an FBI undercover agent posing as a Russian military intelligence official contacted Lipka. Because the undercover agent knew his correct code name, Lipka agreed to several face-to-face meetings in Lancaster, Pennsylvania and Baltimore, Maryland. During these meetings, Lipka complained that the KGB had not paid him enough money for the NSA documents he had transferred and accepted $10,000 as the balance due for his past espionage activities.

With no statute of limitation for espionage, on September 24, 1997, more than 30 years after his crime of betrayal, Lipka was sentenced to 18 years in prison.